Tag Archives: philosophy

Studio Ghibli: landscapes

I’ve been watching Spirited Away recently, and I find that I always adore the train-track landscapes.

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The journey via train is one of my favourite sequences; I love the way the travellers vanish, get misty, and the places speak of untold stories that appear only for a moment.

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via GIPHY

I like the way the places go past; the way the skies change and the time flows.

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via GIPHY

I’m not sure why I like it so much, but as Delirium from Sandman says: “I like in-betweens.”

Why Identity Matters: thoughts from Stewart Hotston

Regardless of that, I hope you can be brave enough to buy stories that aren’t obviously about people like you, that aren’t showing you nothing but a blurred out mirror with only the bits you like reflecting back.

Why? because then my friends who write together with those buy, market and publish those stories will be able to justify changing the world – because you’ll have done it first.

From an interesting and thoughtful post from Stewart Hotston that’s worth a read, along with another thoughtful post on race.

6 Months as an Editor: Thoughts

I’ve now been a Junior Editor (well, at least it’s not a minion!) with Rebellion for six months…and it’s still going great! A friend was asking me some questions, and I thought – actually, the answers are kinda interesting. Going from a writer and editor for friends to a professional editor and formatter… what have I found in the last six months as someone who’s just stepped into a pretty new world?

Am I a better editor? Well, yes. It still scares the hell out of me that I’m the one making judgement calls on others people’s writing, and to the level that I can input on if they get published or not…but at the same time, I’m mostly passing the buck (hi, commissioning editors!) and at the level I’m now working at, it’s not so much a question of if the stories are good – because they overwhelmingly are! – but whether we want to publish a story of that type. The one thing I have got better at is adding in a personal opinion to whether a story is any good; whereas before I’d just comment on the writing, I can now weigh in with my personal opinion – which is, I think, as valid a part of reading as the actual writing skill is! If a book is beautifully written but does nothing for me, then maybe it’s not for us; if it’s something that I want to absolutely rave about, then maybe it is! Being able to convince my boss to publish something – and, therefore, being able to wave my hands and squeak excitedly about how awesome it is – is as much a part of publishing as “the writing’s very pretty”.

Do my editing level-ups have any input on making my writing better? Well…no, not really :-/ if anything, I’ve learned that I’m even more right to know I can’t edit my own work! I’ve got more awareness of tropes and how other people do things, and more awareness of the fantasy and fiction world in general – but my ideas are still mine, and the way I write is still mine. I can’t see the flaws in my stories any better for having edited other people’s than I could before I started. The thing that has helped, though, which is advice given to every writer – READ MORE.

Am I reading more? Well, yes, but unfortunately it’s not reading that I can talk about yet – and I still need to keep current with fiction, too! The thing about the endless slush pile are true, though – I have to make sure I block out time to read! And also, to writers: you have to make a good first impression. I don’t tend to read the agent’s blurb more than to get a flavour (but then the ones I currently read have gone through the agents & my commissioning editor before I read it) but if you haven’t hooked me in the first three chapters, I’ll start skimming (and others might put it down). That’s not to say I can’t cope with slow starts – it’s the writing and the characters that get me in, but something does have to be happening. You need to be driving towards a story at least.

I am definitely seeing the benefit of agents! Yes, it’s frustrating to have another layer to go through; but they negotiate the contracts (and while a lot of the contracts stuff is important, it’s also dense – it’s definitely worth having someone on your side to tell you what the benefits of various options are, even though I’m arguing over a percentage point at times…) and also – a huge plus on my side – have already vetted the books I see. A minus in that they’ve already done one layer of skimming, but a plus in that I don’t have to try to fit reading that much into my schedule! Agents also learn what the editors like, so will send things based on our criteria. There seems to be a lot of hate for the agent gateway/chokehold etc, but I can definitely see the benefit.

Commercial considerations are frustratingly big. We have to make money – that’s the baseline. It costs time and space for editors, even if one of us does all the jobs of formatting/reading/covers etc… and for every book we take on as a “I really love this and I want it to be out there!” we have to take on a “people will buy this”. Also, sequels: I entirely get the frustration of not wanting to start a series without knowing the end, but we can’t risk paying for six books when we don’t know if they’ll sell (or, we’d pay such a low price that it’s not fair to the author.) We’d buy one with an option on the next, sometimes two, maybe (riskily!) three – but you need to be buying the first ones.

Short stories are definitely useful. Having your name in the industry and proving that people will buy your work is useful; any kind of track record is good just to show me that you are out there and can do this writing thing! Also knowing industry people, or being known; panels at conventions, interviews, or even just presence at conventions are all good. If you’ve pitched us with writing before, then we’ll also likely remember you – although this is for good or for ill!

Also, pitch. To all writers: keep pitching. Keep writing. There is so much truth in the “I love this book but it’s not quite right for me now” – the It’s Not You, It’s Me of the writing world! Sometimes the last fantasy Western didn’t do too well, and I can’t spin this one past my boss. Sometimes I don’t think the world needs another grimdark. Sometimes we have to choose between a (very good!) epic fantasy and something a bit weirder, and one has to win. There is so much timing and personality and market forces and…urgh. Seriously, just keep trying. If you get rejected, then you can always shelve the novel and come back to it later.

Be easy to work with. I know, there’s all sorts of personalities in the world, and most of the time people manage pretty good working relationships. But I was reminded of how useful it is to be able to work well with people by an author I gave some (fairly harsh!) feedback to recently – and they were very sweet and grateful, when I was expecting a tantrum. It means they’ve got up several points in my estimation and actually, even though I don’t want the book in its current state, I’m more willing to take a look at it again!

Think of it as a business and you’ll get further. As as an author, you are allowed to push back. It is your book and your writing: if you’ve got a contract and publication deal then it’s a bit of a different power dynamic, but there’s usually space for negotiation on editing tweaks. If you’re going to push back (and you may have to!) then do it gently but firmly; work out where your line is and why. There are clauses in the contracts for disputes, and if I think a book I want to take will need major changes then I’ll usually say in the negotiations – but for anything minor, you should be able to come to an agreement. (Of course, sometimes it’s a flat no from your editor, and that’s why you need to work out your boundaries.)

And, one for me:

I am allowed to be enthusiastic. I love the books and authors I get to work with. I love my job, even when it frustrates me and I have deadlines piling up. I love the work, even though I’m still learning – and I hope I’ll always be learning!

I’m allowed to get things wrong. That’s how I learn. I have to make mistakes: I just shouldn’t make the same one twice.

I’m allowed to grow. I’m a professional. I’m someone who now has larger shoes and a larger outline to fill – and damnit, I’m allowed to fill it.

So – I’m happy. I’m learning. I’m growing. And I’m loving my job! I get to read amazing books for a living – what more could I want?!

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite: No Man’s Land

Nothing to writing - sit down and bleed. Hemingway

I had some really good feedback recently for No Man’s Land that basically boiled down to, “love the characters and the setting, but the action starts too late. Integrate the two plotlines better.”

Thirty seconds of internal wailing later because my book is perfect and they just don’t get iiiiiit and you know, ok. They’re right.

And when I started thinking about it, ideas started bubbling. Start with Ghost and Nat. Start with them fighting something. Bring the vampires in. Keep the outline of the story, but integrate more. It would be a full rewrite but would leave the core of the story intact, I’d be able to re-use most of what I currently have, and I could do it for NaNoWriMo!

And then reality sunk in.

It’s going to really hurt.

No Man’s Land isn’t an easy story to carry. It came out of Dresden, and carries a large piece of my heart anyway; the characters came from somewhere tangled, and seem to have so much woven into them that it’s going to be hard (and emotional) to pick them up again. In terms of actually writing, I’m kind of screwed as well: my original circle of support for the book got trashed as one of my beta readers isn’t particularly in favour of me, the second is dead, and the third’s about to have a baby. The person I wrote a lot of the stories for isn’t here; I shelved Ghost and No Man’s for a year because I couldn’t face the world without Ryan to read them, and even now I’m feeling pretty shaky about diving head-first back into it all. It’s not an ideal situation for ripping something to pieces and putting it back together, and on top of that, re-writing a 70k novel that’s already fairly decent and needs to be made better isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

It’s all pretty scary.

And this is the point when I either shelve it permanently, or I fight back.

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Fuck it. I’m fighting.

(And with any luck, that’s going to feed into Ghost. If anyone needs to be spiky and sarcastic, it’s my beloved spirit-talker; and I’m going to put every bit of fight into her.)

Ps. In-progress 4am messy scribbles for the new start!

Notebook with scribbled writing

A Reminder That You’re Awesome

Apropos of this post from a few weeks ago, a very wise friend recently said to me;

“You can’t fight someone else’s fight. You can, however, wait until the gunfire quiets down a little to remind them that they’re awesome.”

And, from the still-cracked part of my heart that’s slowly getting inlaid with gold – go and tell your friends what they mean to you, because they need to hear it.